Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hypomanie - Calm Down, You Weren't Set on Fire

The Netherlands has become a hotbed of boundary-pushing, underground black metal in recent years, with bands like Urfaust, Gnaw Their Tongues and Dodecahedron contributing great efforts to furthering the genre. Hypomanie are one of the lesser bands on the scene, but they’re also participants in the very new international niche of metalgazing. The more even divisions of shoegaze and black metal heard on early Hypomanie releases has given way to an instrumental form of shoegaze/post rock with only very minimal metal influences. If this wasn’t clear on last year’s A City in Mono (which it was), it will surely be on this year’s awkwardly titled Calm Down, You Weren’t Set on Fire. Black metal percussion and some slightly extreme forms of guitar distortion remained on 2011’s record. This new record strips away the distortion (which created a black metal atmosphere) and almost all of the metal drumming, with only two tracks featuring rather chilled-sounding blast beats. Even and generic portions of post rock and shoegaze are the main course. This all but exactly equals a complete border crossing of genres for Hypomanie.

I can see why Hypomanie traded off the black metal for a more straight up shoegaze approach. The single member of the band, S, is simply better at making arty-farty trend rock (which is sometimes good despite my derogatory classification). There’s no question that on the fronts of technicality and song-writing, Hypomanie’s last two releases are a vast improvement in terms of quality. But, to put it bluntly, they’re boring. S has not taken into consideration the interest of his earlier work caused by the as yet not fully explored territory of this particular subgenre fusion. In the end, all this comes off as is a lesser version of Godspeed, Mogwai, or even Isis. As a post rock record, it’s pretty good. The textures are really very nice and the song writing has moments of excellence. The only complaint I would make here is that it’s a little static, sounding a little too similar to itself over the duration of the album.

In short: I’m frankly disappointed with the musical direction this band has taken. If Calm Down had been released ten years ago, it would be an instant classic. But the times are changing fast and unfortunately this now sounds regurgitated. Sehnsucht, although made with little finesse, remains Hypomanie’s most important and interesting album, despite the actual music on Calm Down being better.

Standout tracks: “Lullaby for Ian”, “Pale Blue”

Score: 6.0

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